DETROIT—Banished to the bullpen, a two-time Cy Young Award winner has become baseball's most distinguished middle reliever.
His dark, stringy hair flopping onto his shoulders, Tim Lincecum was the ace of the staff when the Giants won the World Series two years ago for the first time since 1954.
Following his surprising season-long slump, San Francisco dropped Lincecum from its World Series rotation. Given the chance to pitch in relief, he threw 2 1-3 hitless innings Saturday night in a 2-0 win over the Detroit Tigers that moved the Giants into a 3-0 lead.
Lincecum has pitched 4 2-3 innings of hitless ball against the Tigers, striking out eight. He's faced 16 batters and just two have reached, on a walk and an error by shortstop Brandon Crawford.
"It is a little tough," Lincecum said before the Series began, "but I mean it's just all about being prepared for that next day or when you could get your name called."
Known for his high leg kick and unorthodox delivery, the diminutive Lincecum has simplified his mechanics during the postseason, jettisoning his windup and going solely from the stretch—even with no runners on base.
"It allows me to just think about one thing, and that's sight of the target," he said. "At times it can still get away for me and I can still think about the wrong things. But most of the times it works."
After winning the NL Cy Young Award in 2009 and '10, he slumped to 13-14 in 2011 and 10-15 with a 5.18 ERA this year, the highest among qualifying NL starters.
He lost his only postseason start, in Game 4 of the NL championship series against St. Louis, but he's allowed just one run and three hits in 13 innings of relief over five outings for a 0.69 ERA.
When he was relegated to the bullpen by manager Bruce Bochy, Lincecum said he didn't take it as a demotion. He just looked at it as a different way to help the team.
"I think we're all enjoying this right now," Lincecum said moments after the final out Saturday. "We're looking forward to tomorrow."